2010 Cadillac DTS 4.6 Liter Northstar from North America
Definition of Class from a Bygone Era
Shortly after acquisition, I chose to perform catch-up maintenance, such as having the cooling system flushed and air filter changed, although I wouldn't consider these repairs. I did have to have both front struts replaced, as one of the bearing plates was broken.
I unexpectedly inherited this vehicle from my father, who was of the generation that venerated Cadillac and considered them to epitomize class and success. The 2010 DTS is certainly one of the last of the full sized sedans, and while it would not have been my first choice of cars to purchase for myself, I find it has grown on me. In fact, I had already bought a new 2017 Ford Explorer 1 1/2 years before the DTS came into my hands, so obviously opted for quite a different kind of vehicle.
My father bought this car used in 2012 with about 25,000 miles on it. I've only owned it for six months, acquiring it at around 68,000 miles. I remember driving it home for him and thinking it would never look that good again. He was not big on maintenance, and unfortunately later hired some people of ill repute who had access to the car and basically ran it into the ground. And being an old man, he had a habit of sideswiping things with his big Cadillac before he lost his license, an unfortunate stereotype that seems to have a large degree of merit. So, I acquired an 8-year-old Cadillac with a number of paint chips, a dirty interior, and an uncertain maintenance history. It was much like the old Disney cartoon of the once-happy car that had fallen on hard times, passing through the hands of worse and worse ne'er do wells, until it found someone to rescue it. In fact, I came very close to simply giving this car to an uncle, but I have a history of snatching vehicles out of the jaws of the junkyard demons (note 1964 Dodge 440, 1967 Chrysler Newport, 1973 Dodge Charger), and I felt some compulsion to restore a bit of dignity to this Cadillac. Although my generation doesn't consider Cadillac to be the gold standard as it once was, I believe there is nothing sadder than a former luxury car that has been neglected and not cared for, and allowed to fall into decline. Unfortunately, you see them all the time--dented old Cadillacs driven by guys with grease rubbed on their bellies protruding through open, flapping shirts; bums who think the mere fact of driving an old Cadillac, albeit with 170,000 miles with all the warning lights on, imparts some degree of class that they will never attain on their own. I did not want that to be the fate of this car.
So, I began with some catch-up maintenance. In order to establish a baseline, I went to a dealership and had them do everything that would have been included up to the 70,000 mile service. That essentially meant checking things, oil change, replacing the air filter and wiper blades, and thankfully no other problems except the following. I had to have both front struts replaced--probably from somebody not caring that they hit one pothole too many time, because what the heck, it was somebody else's car. I also had the cooling system flushed, though it was before the recommended mileage, because I have heard of the warping heads on Northstar engines and hoped to avoid that with a clean and efficient cooling system. The cooling system flush was about $300, and the front strut replacement was $1,600. After that I moved on to touching up all the little paint chips, and re-affixing the front fog lamp assembly, broken probably by my dad going into the ditch once too often. After detailing the interior and hand waxing, it appeared that I had a pretty nice looking car. That's the other thing: one should be so ashamed at the idea of allowing one of these old full-sized Cadillacs to leave the garage dirty, that it will never be allowed to happen. That's a rule.
From the driver's point of view, my 2017 Explorer is quieter and rides better. However, from a passenger's point of view, my wife finds the big leather seats in the Cadillac more comfortable than the Explorer. And my father-in-law, who has religiously driven only Honda Accords since the 1980s, proclaimed after his first ride in this or any other Cadillac that he had just had an epiphany--he never wanted to ride in any car other than a Cadillac again. So, even at 9 years old and over 70,000 miles, it's not bad and better than many. It is pleasant to drive, although I feel that the car does not insulate one from road noise and bumps as one might expect from a luxury car. This could be the fault of an abused suspension, however, and might not apply to one taken care of in a better manner.
It is also my impression that one needs to step on the gas a bit more to maintain speed, despite the V-8. When not paying particular attention to the speedometer, I find myself going a few miles under the speed limit. By comparison, in my Explorer with the turbocharged 4-cylinder, it's easy to find myself speeding and you don't even feel it. I thought I was doing 55, but actually doing 70. Oops! In a strange quirk, I have learned to avoid taking the car through an aggressive undercarriage wash, because the water jets seemed to affect a series of sensors. My first time through the full wash, the check engine light came on and stayed on until the next day when the wiring dried out, though this has not happened during driving in the rain. In another instance, I started the car and it ran rough and choppy, with several warning lights coming on for a few minutes--never happened before and never happened since; just weird. I chalked it up to thinking it just needed to be driven consistently.
Again, despite the V-8, gas mileage is quite good. In mixed driving, around town with some 50-mile highway runs, the car returns 19-20 mpg. However, doing 65 mph on the highway for several hours returns about 26-27 mpg, which I thought was pretty phenomenal for a large V-8 sedan.
So, the car has grown on me, and I think I have restored its dignity. I take care of things so they last, and expect to get several years of use out of this DTS, providing it does its part. I'm aware that the Northstar engine has a certain reputation, and the late 2000s were not the high point of General Motors quality, but I'd like to see if my maintenance and usage habits will carry the day, although at current mileage, it will take five years to even reach 100,000 miles. It has become the vacation driving car to keep miles off the Explorer, and has also become the weekend car if the weather is bad, to save the '73 Charger and '71 Barracuda, both of which it rides far better than, by the way.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 23rd April, 2019